Sunday, June 28, 2009

My Review of Doctor Who's 1x06: "Dalek"

Written by Robert Shearman
Directed by Joe Ahearne

The Doctor: “Don’t you see? It’s all gone. Everything you were, everything you stood for.”
Dalek: “Then what should I do?”

Let’s be honest, the first five episodes which all have their merits were the warm up act of the new Doctor Who. This, however is our first water cooler episode (and with good reason) and here the pressure was quite high. After all, a whole new generation, including myself were about to get acquainted with one of the Time Lord’s greatest foes, the Daleks and this was certainly one confrontation you didn’t want to miss, whether you were a novice, a long term fan or happen to flit in between both groups.

Last seen in 1988’s “Remembrance Of The Daleks” and the 1996 TV Movie, the lone Dalek’s pain drew the TARDIS to an underground museum in Utah, the most conservative place in America, which may be ironic as the hour plays on the themes of bigotry and intolerance.

The Doctor and Rose soon find themselves as intruders to an arrogant billionaire named Henry Van Statten, the so called owner of the internet and in general, a collector of alien artefacts and other assorted material not for public consumption.

Played by Corey Johnson, Henry is something of a dislikeable presence and the fact he’s willing to torture aliens of what he has no understanding of when he isn’t labelling them (both The Doctor and the Dalek get a taste of this) and has no problem with sacrificing his staff, when he isn’t wiping their memories makes him the first proper human villain we’ve had this season (Cassandra really doesn’t count on that score).

Halfway through the episode, I wanted to punch the guy’s lights out and most of the time, I had hoped the Dalek would’ve killed Henry but sadly this didn’t happen but more on my dislike for such a wretched character later.

It seems that seventeen years off screen and falling through space and time, not only is this Dalek the only survivor of it’s kind from the Time War but it struggles with that fact, when it isn’t ridiculing The Doctor. The relationship between The Doctor and the Daleks has always been psychological as well as destructive, which has been one of the reasons why they are iconic TV villains in their own right.

Taking in the fact that I’m a slightly desensitised TV viewers and real life events aside, even I found the lone Dalek to be quite a threat in this episode. Easily the first genuine threat we’ve had as well might I add.

The Doctor’s hatred for this particular species whose only design is to kill at sight is understandable and Christopher Eccleston is given some complex material to chew on and does so effortlessly. The Dalek, when it wasn’t sucking, shooting and electrocuting all of Henry’s finest soldiers has other moments to shine. Its attempts of grappling with being the only Dalek in existence are fascinating as is the effect that Rose’s DNA is having on its mental state. It was her touch after all that made this thing a threat. Probably Rose’s dumbest moment to date touching an unknown creature but Billie Piper more than makes up for it during a surprise twist of events.

For once she and The Doctor are opposing paths as she takes the Dalek’s side, giving both her and The Doctor some fantastic reasons as to why the Dalek should live or die. With the right set of instructions, Rose alludes that there is a possibility of the Dalek not being a threat but The Doctor knows that without a conscious, the Dalek will always be a threat to humanity.

Voiced by Nicholas Briggs, we got to see the inside of the nefarious creature and even I felt a little sympathy for it. I think Rose made the right call by telling the thing to exterminate itself in a spectacular sequence. Is this the last we’ve seen of the Daleks? I seriously doubt it but how about an introduction or what?

It was great to have a confrontation that was psychological and emotional. As a viewer it’s a lot more interesting to watch than unnecessary and extreme violent endings and that kind of an ending would’ve ruined the good work in this exceptional tour de force.

For me there seems to be a lot of giving in this episode and it extended way past the Daleks. The wonderful and quite pithy Diana Goddard (think Lilah Morgan in a way), nicely dispatched of Henry by erasing his memory and as a reward, we as an audience got the rather nice Adam (Coronation Street’s Bruno Langley) as a new companion for The Doctor and Rose.

What can I say about Adam? He’s something of a boy genius but not in an overly egotistically way, he’s got a massive crush on Rose (and I spotted that even before he gave her a tour of his living quarters), wants to explore the world, has nowhere to go and thinks people who claim to have seen aliens are nuts.

Oh and The Doctor enjoys teasing him in a similar way to teasing Mickey. Does that cover everything? Either way, it’ll be interesting to see this trio tackle aliens for however long.

Also in “Dalek”

Henry’s museum contained chunks of meteorite, moon dust, an artefact from the Roswell spaceship, a Slitheen hand, a head of a Cyberman. We also saw a strange musical instruments and a variety of weapons.

Henry: “She’s quite pretty.”
Rose: “She is going to slap you if you keep calling her she.”

We got no Jackie or Mickey this week. Plus, our Bad Wolf sign was Henry’s helicopter. Who is this mysterious Bad Wolf the writers keep alluding to?

The Doctor: “Impossible.”
Dalek: “The Doctor? Exterminate, exterminate!”

Dalek: “Do you fear me?”
Rose: “No.”

The Dalek got a few nicknames in this episode including “Metaltron” by Henry, “Pepperpot” by Adam, a “Big Bin” by Rose and “Nothing” by The Doctor. Adam also got called “English” by Henry and “Pretty” by The Doctor.

Goddard (re Dalek): “But it’s killing them.”
Henry: “They’re dispensable, it’s unique.”

Adam (to Dalek): “Great big alien machine defeated by a flight of stairs.”

Adam made a sly reference to War Games when he said he hacked into the US defence system.

Adam (re fight): “I could.”
The Doctor: “What are you gonna do? Throw your A-Levels at it?”

The chronology is 2012, six years after “Aliens Of London”/“World War Three”.

The Doctor: “Why don’t you just die?”
Dalek: “You would make a good Dalek.”

Henry had his assistant sent to either Mississippi or Michigan. Diane had him sent to Seattle, San Diego or Sacramento. She made him into a homeless junkie.

The Doctor (re Dalek): “It couldn’t.”
Rose: “What about you, Doctor? What the hell are you changing into?”

Dalek: “Are you frightened Rose Tyler?”
Rose: “Yeah.”
Dalek: “So I am.”

Diana ordered the Utah museum to be cemented. This whole plot reminded me of The Initiative in Buffy Season Four.

Wow, this was incredible! “Dalek” was not only a fantastic reintroduction to a classic foe but also a rather discussion worthy episode in how both the Dalek and The Doctor touched on bigotry in their destinies. Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper delivered their best work to date as did our guest stars this week. Unmissable on every account!

Rating: 9 out of 10.

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